Live Sports: The Power of the Live Audience for Brands

By: Misha Williams, VP, Client Services

When it comes to engagement and reach, there’s nothing like live sports. Sports fans are among the most loyal of all consumers, making them a valuable audience for brands trying to get their message in front of an engaged, broad audience. The live experience is something that these audiences want – they want to watch their favorite players and be part of the event by cheering on the team or player and sharing in that excitement with others.

But in today’s digital and streaming worlds, there’s shifting value for live sports. Here’s what you may not know about live sports advertising, and what’s next as live sports move digital.


Why Live Sports Advertising?

As of now there are over 155 million live sports fans in the U.S. – nearly half of the population. And this number is expected to climb yearly for the foreseeable future (Source: eMarketer.) With that, brands see an opportunity to get in on the action and gain valuable exposure through advertising during games or sponsoring players, teams, or leagues.

Over the last few years, more and more brands have been placing their marketing budgets not just on TV but more specifically with live sporting events. Why? Because these are events that people want to watch as they unfold, presenting advertisers with the perfect platform to reach millions of viewers at a time – not an easy feat when you consider streaming consumption and fragmentation. Moreover, these are engaged viewers that are emotionally and psychologically invested in their favorite teams and star players.

Live sports advertising goes back many decades. In the U.S., it has existed since around 1920 when radio was first becoming a popular medium. Then, baseball games were being broadcast on local stations in New York, Chicago, Boston, and Cleveland and during these games advertisements from different brands would be interspersed with the play-by-play of the game.

Still, today, tapping into live sporting events offers brands many benefits. As a matter of fact, these events attract more live spectators than any other television event. For instance, Superbowl is considered the most viewed event in the U.S., with the viewership regularly exceeding the 100 million mark.


The Value of the Sports Fan

Sports fans come in two categories. The first are the “casual” sports fans who have their favorite teams and athletes but engage mostly on game days. A big TV screen and some close friends to share the experience with are enough for them.

The second category of sports fans are the “avid” fans. This group watches their favorite teams and athletes win or lose, week in and out. They know all about them—everything from their stats to what laundry detergent they use.

If brands want to reach the valuable avid sports fan, they need to figure out how to get involved with live sporting events. This is because while fans are watching sports on TV, they are simultaneously broadcasting their experience out to thousands of other like-minded fans on social media. Additionally, these fans drive more meaningful conversations about themselves and ultimately increase brand awareness and sales.


Live Sports Viewing Goes Digital

Live sports viewing is no longer just about the TV set anymore. Digital live sports content in the U.S. is also exploding: eMarketer predicts it will reach 57.5 million viewers this year and 90.7 million by 2025. By 2025, more than 25% of Americans are expected to be watching live sports digitally. This, in turn, is helping to increase the overall revenue that comes from live sport broadcasting rights and creates a bigger incentive for companies to advertise during live events.

Many platforms, including Sky and Peacock, offer live sports streaming options. And the audience is certainly there: Amazon Prime said that when they first showed Premier League football matches on their platform, they saw the most new sign-ups since the company launched the Prime subscription service in 2007.

Undoubtedly, live sports in all forms will continue to be one of, if not the most popular types of programming in the future. As the major broadcasters realize this, they are integrating live sports events into their streaming services to keep up with the demand from consumers who want live content.

In the years ahead, the way in which consumers watch live sports may change, but one this is for sure: the sports fan is here to stay.